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Propaganda in North Korea

anti american propaganda in north korea, propaganda in north korea leader lies to people
The standard view of propaganda in North Korea sees it as based on the Juche ideology and on the promotion of the Workers' Party of Korea1

Many pictures of the national leaders are posted throughout the country2


  • 1 Themes
    • 11 Cult of personality
    • 12 Foreign relations
      • 121 South Korea
    • 13 Racial pride
    • 14 "Military first"
    • 15 Devotion to the state
    • 16 Food shortage
  • 2 Practices
    • 21 Posters
    • 22 Art
    • 23 Music
    • 24 Film
    • 25 Leaflets
  • 3 Social media
  • 4 Propaganda village
  • 5 See also
    • 51 Related
    • 52 Censorship
  • 6 References
    • 61 Sources
  • 7 Further reading


Cult of personalityedit

Main article: North Korea's cult of personality Kim Il-sung with Kim Jong-il on Mount Paektu

In previous decades, North Korean propaganda was crucial to the formation and promotion of the cult of personality centered around the founder of the totalitarian state, Kim Il-sung3 The Soviet Union began to develop him, particularly as a resistance fighter, as soon as they put him in power4 This quickly surpassed its Eastern European models5 Instead of depicting his actual residence in a Soviet village during the war with the Japanese, he was claimed to have fought a guerrilla war from a secret base6

Once relations with the Soviet Union were broken off, their role was expurgated, as were all other nationalists, until the claim was made that he founded the Communist Party in North Korea7 He is seldom shown in action during the Korean War, which, if it was presented as a glorious victory, nevertheless devastated the country; instead, soldiers are depicted as inspired by him8 Subsequently, many stories are recounted of his "on-the-spot guidance" in various locations, many of them being openly presented as fictional9

This was supplemented with propaganda on behalf of his son, Kim Jong-il10 The "food shortage" produced anecdotes of Kim insisting on eating the same meager food as other North Koreans11

Propaganda efforts began for the "Young General", Kim Jong-un, who succeeded him as paramount leader of North Korea on Kim Jong-il's death in December 201112

Foreign relationsedit

Paintings on the walls of the Sinchon Museum of American War Atrocities depict alleged atrocities carried out by American soldiers during the Korean War

Early propaganda, in the 1940s, presented a positive Soviet–Korean relationship, often depicting Russians as maternal figures to childlike Koreans13 As soon as relations were less cordial, they were expurgated from historical accounts7 The collapse of the USSR, without a shot, is often depicted with intense contempt in sources not accessible to Russians14

Americans are depicted particularly negatively15 They are presented as an inherently evil race, with whom hostility is the only possible relationship16 The Korean War is used as a source for atrocities, less for the bombing raids than on charges of massacre17

Japan is frequently depicted as rapacious and dangerous, both in the colonial era and afterwards North Korean propaganda frequently highlighted the danger of Japanese remilitarization18 At the same time, the intensity of anti-Japanese propaganda underwent repeated fluctuations, depending on the improvement or deterioration of Japanese-DPRK relations In those periods when North Korea was on better terms with Japan than with South Korea, North Korean propaganda essentially ignored the Liancourt Rocks dispute However, if Pyongyang felt threatened by Japanese-South Korean rapprochement or sought to cooperate with Seoul against Tokyo, the North Korean media promptly raised the issue, with the aim of causing friction in Japanese-ROK relations19

Friendly nations are depicted almost exclusively as tributary nations20 The English journalist Christopher Hitchens pointed out in the essay A Nation of Racist Dwarfs that propaganda has a blatantly racist and nationalistic angle:21

North Korean women who return pregnant from China—the regime's main ally and protector—are forced to submit to abortions Wall posters and banners depicting all Japanese as barbarians are only equaled by the ways in which Americans are caricatured as hook-nosed monsters21

South Koreaedit

North Korean propaganda poster promoting Korean reunification

South Korea was originally depicted as a poverty-stricken land, where American soldiers shot Korean children, but by the 1990s, too much information reached North Korea to prevent their learning that South Korea had a higher living standard, and so propaganda admitted it22 The line taken was that this had not prevented the South Koreans from yearning for unification and purification23

Racial prideedit

Further information: The Cleanest Race, Korean ethnic nationalism, and Racism in South Korea

North Korean propaganda often invokes Koreans as the purest of races, with a mystical bond with the natural beauty of the landscape24 The color white is often invoked as a symbol of this purity, as in a painting of the "Homeland Liberation War" or Korean War which depicts female partisans washing and hanging out white blouses, despite the way it would have made them visible to attack25

In contrast to Stalinist depictions of people steeling themselves, preparing themselves intellectually, and so growing up and becoming fit to create Communism, the usual image in North Korean literature is of a spontaneous virtue that revolts against intellectualism but naturally does what is right26

Stories often have only mildly flawed Korean characters, who are easily reformed because of their inherently pure nature This device has resulted in problems such as lack of conflict and hence dullness27

South Korea is often depicted as a place of dangerous racial contamination23

"Military first"edit

Songun, or "military first", propaganda

Under Kim Jong-il, a major theme was the need of Kim to attend to the military first of all in North Korea, this policy is called Songun, which required other Koreans to do without his close attention This military life is presented as something that Koreans take spontaneously to, though often disobeying orders from the highest of motives28

Devotion to the stateedit

Romance is often depicted in stories as being triggered solely by the person's model citizenship, as when a beauty is unattractive until a man learns she volunteered to work at a potato farm29

Food shortageedit

The North Korean famine was admitted within propaganda to be solely a "food shortage", ascribed to bad weather and failure to implement Kim's teachings, but unquestionably better than situations outside North Korea30

The government urged the use of non-nutritious and even harmful "food substitutes" such as sawdust31


Propaganda poster

Every year, a state-owned publishing housewhich releases several cartoons called geurim-chaek Chosŏn'gŭl: 그림책 in North Korea, many of which are smuggled across the Chinese border and, sometimes, end up in university libraries in the United States The books are designed to instill the Juche philosophy of Kim Il-sung the "father" of North Korea—radical self-reliance of the state The plots mostly feature scheming capitalists from the United States and Japan who create dilemmas for naïve North Korean characters

The propaganda in North Korea is controlled mainly by the Propaganda and Agitation Department of the Workers Party of Korea


Posters depict the correct actions for every part of life, down to appropriate clothing15 North Korean Propaganda posters are very similar to the messages portrayed by other communist countries North Korean propaganda posters focus on military might, utopian society and devotion to the state, and the leader's personality32 Propaganda posters are also used to depict the opposite of what is really happening in the country to the outside world Kim Jong-il is credited with using propaganda art and posters to make the Kim family's identity inseparable from the state33


Propaganda poster in a primary school at the Chongsan-ri Farm

Fine art often depicts militaristic themes34

The Flower Girl, a revolutionary opera allegedly penned by Kim Il-Sung himself, was turned into a movie, the most popular one in North Korea35 It depicts its heroine's sufferings in the colonial era until her partisan brother returns to exact vengeance on their oppressive landlord, at which point she pledges support for the revolution36


Main article: Music of North Korea

The country's supreme leaders have had hymns dedicated to them that served as their signature tune and were repetitively broadcast by the state media:

  • "Song of General Kim Il-sung" for Kim Il-sung
  • "Song of General Kim Jong-il" and "No Motherland Without You" for Kim Jong-il
  • "Footsteps", "Onwards Toward the Final Victory" and "We Will Follow You Only" for Kim Jong-un


See also: Cinema of North Korea North Korea has a prolific propaganda film industrycitation needed

The Korean government also runs a film industry North Korean movies depict the glory of North Korean life and the atrocities of Western Imperialism, with a key role of providing on-screen role models37 The film industry is run through Pyongyang University of Cinematic and Dramatic Arts38 Kim Jong-Il was a self-proclaimed genius of film38 In 1973, he authored On the Art of the Cinema, a treatise on film theory and filmmaking39 He was rumored to own over 20,000 DVDs in his personal collection Kim believed that Cinema was the most important of the arts Domestically, these films are given lavish receptions International critics cite the films as propaganda, because of their unreal depictions of North Korea40 Recently, there has been an increase in animated films The animated films carry political and military messages aimed at the youth of North Korea37


Main article: Balloon campaigns in Korea

The North Korean government is known for dropping Propaganda leaflets to South Korean soldiers, just across the Demilitarized Zone The leaflets are dropped across in a floating balloon The leaflets criticize the South Korean government and praise North Korea41

Social mediaedit

Further information: Internet in North Korea

North Korea made its first entry into the social media market in 2010 The country has launched its own website,42 Facebook page,42 had its own YouTube channel,434445 Twitter account44 and Flickr page46 The profile picture of all social media accounts, according to the official Korean Central News Agency, is the Three Charters for National Reunification Memorial Tower, a 30 metres 98 ft monument in Pyongyang that "reflects the strong will of the 70 million Korean people to achieve the reunification of the country with their concerted effort"42

  • Uriminzokkiri: Uriminzokkiri is a website that provides Korean-language news and propaganda from North Korea's central news agency The website offers translation in Korean, Russian and English Uriminzokkiri means "on our own as our nation"47not in citation given The site includes articles entitled "South Korea's Pro-US/Japan Corporate Media: Endless Demonization Campaigns Against DPRK", "The Project for New American Century: The New World Order & The US's Continued CRIMES" and "Kim Jong-un Sends Musical Instruments to Children's Palaces" The website also contains a page for tvurminzokirri This page contains videos showing news clips criticizing imperialist movements, clips showing the bravery of Korean people and the power of its military48
  • Facebook: The North Korean Facebook account appeared a week after the South Korean government blocked the North Korean Twitter account42 The Facebook account is named Uriminzok English: "Our race"42 The page represents "the intentions of North and South Koreas and compatriots abroad, who wish for peace, prosperity and unification of our homeland" There were over 50 posts on Uriminzokkiri's wall, including links to reports that criticize South Korea and the US as "warmongers", photos of picturesque North Korean landscapes and a YouTube video of a dance performance celebrating leader Kim Jong-il, "guardian of the homeland and creator of happiness"49
  • YouTube: The channel named "Uriminzokkiri" was opened in July 201043 It has uploaded over 11,000 videos, including clips that condemn and mock South Korea and the US for blaming North Korea for the sinking of a South Korean warship in March 2010 The account has posted videos dubbing United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton a "Maniac in a Skirt"50 The account had over 3,000 subscribers and over 33 million views as of November 28, 2012;43 by early 2015, numbers had grown to over 11,000 subscribers and more than 11 million views51 On February 5, 2013, a propaganda film that featured New York in flames was blocked and then taken down after Activision pointed out that the video used copyrighted footage from Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 352 It currently has around 12,000 subscribers and 12,600,000 viewscitation needed
  • Twitter: The government's official Twitter account is also named Uriminzok English: "Our race" It gained 8,500 followers in the first week42 As of November 28, 2012, the account had almost 11,000 followers and had sent out almost 5,000 tweets;53 by early 2015, the account had sent almost 13,000 messages and had close to 20,000 followers54 In January 2011, the Korean-language account was hacked and featured messages calling for North Korean citizens to start an uprising55 In April 2013, the country's Twitter account was hacked by the online activist group Anonymous56
  • Flickr: The Flickr account was started in August 2010 and deactivated in April 2013 but is now active from some point in 2017 The site included many pictures of Kim Jong-un receiving applause from the military; children eating, in school, and enjoying life; booming agriculture; and modern city life57 The Urminzokkiri Flickr account was hacked by Anonymous in April 2013, as part of the group's attack on North Korea's social media accounts58

Propaganda villageedit

Main article: Kijong-dong

Kijŏngdong, Kijŏng-dong or Kijŏng tong is a village in P'yŏnghwa-ri Chosŏn'gŭl: 평화리; Hancha: 平和里, Kaesong-si, North Korea It is situated in the North's half of the Korean Demilitarized Zone DMZ and is also known in North Korea as "Peace Village" Chosŏn'gŭl: 평화촌; Hancha: 平和村; MR: p'yŏnghwach'on

The official position of the North Korean government is that the village contains a 200-family collective farm, serviced by a childcare center, kindergarten, primary and secondary schools, and a hospital However, observation from the South suggests that the town is actually an uninhabited Potemkin village built at great expense in the 1950s in a propaganda effort to encourage defections from South Korea and to house the DPRK soldiers manning the extensive network of artillery positions, fortifications and underground marshalling bunkers that abut the border zone59

See alsoedit

  • Media portal
  • North Korea portal
  • Voice of Korea
  • Bias in reporting on North Korea
  • Historical revisionism negationism#North Korea and the Korean War
  • "Let's trim our hair in accordance with the socialist lifestyle"
  • Propaganda in South Korea
  • Propaganda in the Soviet Union
  • Propaganda in the People's Republic of China


  • Media of North Korea
  • Telecommunications in North Korea
  • Communist propaganda


  • Radio jamming in Korea
  • Censorship in North Korea


  1. ^ Scobell, Dr Andrew July 2005, North Korea's Strategic Intentions, Strategic Studies Institute, US Army War College 
  2. ^ Szilak, Illya November 4, 2012 "Meeting, Everywhere, The Rulers Of North Korea" The Huffington Post 
  3. ^ "North Korea profile" BBC News Asia BBC 14 October 2014 
  4. ^ Becker 2005, p 51
  5. ^ Myers 2010, p 37
  6. ^ Myers 2010, pp 36–7
  7. ^ a b Becker 2005, p 53
  8. ^ Myers 2010, pp 101–2
  9. ^ Myers 2010, p 103
  10. ^ "Chinoy, Mike March 1, 2003 "North Korea's propaganda machine" International CNN: Asia Panmunjom, South Korea: CNN 
  11. ^ Becker 2005, p 40
  12. ^ Myers 2010, p 65
  13. ^ Myers 2010, p 35
  14. ^ Myers 2010, p 130
  15. ^ Myers 2010, p 135
  16. ^ Myers 2010, pp 136–7
  17. ^ Myers 2010, p 131
  18. ^ Szalontai, Balázs Winter 2013 "Instrumental Nationalism The Dokdo Problem Through the Lens of North Korean Propaganda and Diplomacy" The Journal of Northeast Asian History Northeast Asian History Foundation 10 2: 105–162 
  19. ^ Myers 2010, p 129–30
  20. ^ a b Hitchens, Christopher 2010-02-01 "A Nation of Racist Dwarfs: Kim Jong-il's regime is even weirder and more despicable than you thought" Fighting Words Slate Retrieved 2012-12-23 
  21. ^ Myers 2010, p 152
  22. ^ a b Myers 2010, p 155
  23. ^ Myers 2010, p 72
  24. ^ Myers 2010, p 78
  25. ^ Myers 2010, p 81
  26. ^ Myers 2010, pp 90–1
  27. ^ Myers 2010, pp 83–4
  28. ^ Myers 2010, p 88
  29. ^ Myers 2010, p 119
  30. ^ Becker 2005, pp 36–7
  31. ^ Lai, Lawrence December 22, 2011 "North Korean Propaganda Posters" Picture This: ABC News ABC News Internet Ventures 
  32. ^ Johnson, Robert December 20, 2011 "Check Out These Twisted North Korean Propaganda Posters" Business Insider Business Insider Inc 
  33. ^ Ferris-Rotman, Amie January 14, 2011 "Exhibitions: Art or propaganda North Korea exhibit in Moscow" Moscow, Russia: Reuters 
  34. ^ Myers 2010, p 91
  35. ^ Myers 2010, p 92
  36. ^ a b Gluck, Caroline 11 January 2002 "North Korea's film industry boom" BBC News: Asie-Pacific BBC 
  37. ^ a b "North Korea's cinema of dreams: 101 East gains rare insight into the beating heart of North Korea's film industry", 101 East, Al Jazeera English, 29 December 2011 
  38. ^ Johannes Schönherr August 13, 2012 North Korean Cinema: A History McFarland p 54 ISBN 978-0-7864-6526-2 Retrieved April 29, 2015 
  39. ^ Jones, Sam October 16, 2012 "A Cinematic Revolution: North Korea’s Film Industry" AGI Asian Global Impact 
  40. ^ AFP 2 October 2012 "North Korea drops propaganda leaflets over border" The Telegraph 
  41. ^ a b c d e f Roberts, Laura 21 August 2010 "North Korea joins Facebook: North Korea appears to have joined the social networking site Facebook after its Twitter account was blocked by South Korea under the country's security laws" The Telegraph Telegraph Media Group 
  42. ^ a b c "uriminzokkiri" YouTube Retrieved November 28, 2012 
  43. ^ a b Yoon, Sangwon August 17, 2010 "North Korea says it has joined Twitter, YouTube" Seoul, South Korea: Associated Press 
  44. ^ "YouTube blocks North Korean state television channel" BBC 15 December 2016 
  45. ^ Associated Press April 4, 2013 "North Korea's Twitter, flickr accounts hacked amid rising tension" 
  46. ^ "English" Uriminzokkiri Retrieved 4 February 2015 
  47. ^ "Uriminzokkiri TV" in Korean Uriminzokkiri 
  48. ^ Associated Press August 20, 2010 "North Korea Joins Facebook, After Opening Twitter and YouTube Accounts" Seoul, South Korea 
  49. ^ Choe Sang-Hun August 17, 2010 "North Korea Takes to Twitter and YouTube" The New York Times New York ed Seoul, South Korea p A7 
  50. ^ "uriminzokkiri: About" YouTube Retrieved February 4, 2015 
  51. ^ "North Korea propaganda taken off YouTube after Activision complaint" BBC News 6 February 2013 
  52. ^ "uriminzokkiri uriminzok" Twitter Retrieved November 28, 2012 
  53. ^ "uriminzokkiri @uriminzok" Twitter Retrieved February 4, 2015 
  54. ^ "North Korea's Twitter account hacked to call for uprising: The North Korean government's official Twitter account appears to have been hacked, with the feed calling for an uprising to remove the leaders from power" The Telegraph 8 January 2011 
  55. ^ Rodriguez, Salvador April 4, 2013 "North Korea's Twitter, Flickr accounts hacked; Anonymous speaks up" Los Angeles Times 
  56. ^ "uriminzokkiri's photostream" Flickr Archived from the original on December 20, 2010 
  57. ^ "Anonymous 'hacks' North Korea social network accounts" BBC News 4 April 2013 
  58. ^ Tran, Mark 6 June 2008 "Travelling into Korea's demilitarised zone: Run DMZ" The Guardian Guardian Media Group Retrieved 5 July 2009 Kijong-dong was built specially in the north area of DMZ Designed to show the superiority of the communist model, it has no residents except soldiers 


  • Becker, Jasper May 1, 2005 Rogue Regime: Kim Jong Il and the Looming Threat of North Korea Oxford University Press ISBN 0-19-517044-X 
  • Myers, B R 2010 The Cleanest Race: How North Koreans See Themselves and Why It Matters Melville House ISBN 978-1-933633-91-6 

Further readingedit

  • Portal, Jane 2005 Art Under Control in North Korea Reaktion Books ISBN 978-1-86189-236-2 

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